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(Photo: Iraqi News Agency) While asking the demonstrators to maintain peace, Moqtada al-Sadr called the sit-in a “golden opportunity” to “fundamentally change the political system and the constitution” of the country
After storming the high security Green Zone in Baghdad on Saturday, July 30, thousands of protesters last Sunday begun an indefinite sit-in inside the Iraqi parliament, demanding the scrapping of the nomination of Mohammed Shia al-Sudani as the new Iraqi prime minister.
The protesters stormed the parliament inside the high security area on Saturday for the second time in the week. At least 125 people, including protesters and security personnel, were injured when the security forces tried to stop the protesters from entering the zone.
The protesters are supporters of Moqtada Al-Sadr, who had opposed Sudani’s nomination claiming that he is corrupt and close to former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Sudani is the candidate of the Coordination Framework, a coalition of parties and forces considered to be close to Iran.
On Wednesday, when they last stormed the parliament, Sadr had asked his supporters to leave the high security zone after a few hours, claiming that their message had been conveyed. However, on Sunday, he called on his supporters to stage an indefinite sit-in inside the parliament, calling it a “demonstration against corruption, quotas and subordination.”
In a statement issued later in the day on Twitter, Sadr asserted that this demonstration is a “golden opportunity” to “fundamentally change the political system and constitution” and to “eliminate darkness, corruption, exclusivity in power, loyalty to the outside, quotas and sectarianism that have prevailed in Iraq.” He also instructed his supporters not to repeat earlier mistakes.
Iraqis have been demonstrating against the country’s political system and the ruling elite for several years now. Numerous demonstrations have taken place demanding changes to the constitution that was formed after the US-led invasion in 2003. Protesters claim that consensus-based government formation and the sectarian quota of power sharing are the core reasons for inefficiency and widespread corruption in the country, and have demanded an end to them.
Coordination Framework calls for counter mobilization
Meanwhile, the Coordination Framework called for counter demonstrations on Monday at 5 pm in front of the Green Zone. A statement issued by the group said that “we call on the Iraqi people who believe in law, constitution and constitutional legitimacy to defend the state and its institutions,” adding that legitimacy of the state is a “red line” which is being threatened by protesters storming the Iraqi parliament, Rudaw reported.
This was despite the fact that in an earlier statement issued on Sunday, the Coordination Framework had offered a conciliatory note, terming the storming of the parliament an “unfortunate development” and saying that “the Iraqi people, their honorable clans and their living forces will not allow any prejudice to these constitutional constants by a single political block that does not represent all the Iraqi people.” The group had also called for dialogue to resolve the issues.
The Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF)-affiliated Fateh alliance, which is a constituent of the Framework, has however refrained from supporting the call for counter demonstrations so far. Its leader Hadi al-Amiri, on Monday, called for a dialogue to resolve the outstanding issues.
Calls for talks were also issued by caretaker Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi. President Barham Salih issued separate calls for a national dialogue.
Meanwhile, the Kurdish Democratic Party, an ally of the Sadrist movement, called for the dissolution of the parliament. Its deputy leader Jiay Timur claimed that despite all efforts taken by Nechirvan Barzani, president of Iraqi Kurdistan, to resolve the political crisis, “the majority opinions are with the dissolution of parliament.”
Reacting to last weeks’ developments, the Iraqi Communist Party expressed concern about the country’s future. It reiterated the demand for abolition of the sectarian quota system and demanded holding of early elections “in which the final say will be for the people.”